My colleague Dr. Kilmer McCully discovered that high homocysteine, caused by low B vitamin intake, is one of the very real causes of heart disease. But the cholesterol cartel silenced and exiled him from Harvard-Massachusetts General Hospital many years ago.
Mainstream medicine often ignores the importance of B vitamins. Especially B6. They consider outright B6 deficiencies rare. In reality, however, many men and women who follow the standard American diet have poor vitamin B6 status.
In fact, in the U.S., 90 percent of women and 71 percent of men consume diets deficient in B6–even if you go by the puny standards of the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs). The most deficient groups are teenagers, people over age 65 years, and women of childbearing age, especially those who are using or have used oral contraceptives.
Furthermore, even if you meet the measly RDAs for vitamin B6, you can still have low B6 blood levels. How does this situation happen?
Many factors can contribute to poor B6 blood levels, including exposure to prescription drugs and other pollutants, increased needs during growth, and chronic digestive disorders. (Digestive disorders can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency as well.)
But it all begins with poor-quality foods and low intake of B6-rich foods.
You see, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, so you must replenish it every day. But you usually can’t get enough of it from consuming only plants. As with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, vitamin B6 in plants is less “bioavailable” than it is in meat.
In fact, vegetables and grains lose much of their original vitamin B6 content during processing or cooking. The longer a food is exposed to heat, cold, or processing, the less B6 is available in it.
For example, steaming a vegetable in water results in up to a 60 percent loss of B6. Milling of wheat is the worst with up to a 90 percent loss of B6. Wheat loses another 20 percent of its small remaining B6 content during baking. It also loses thiamin, another B vitamin, upon baking.
Milk also loses B6 when exposed to pasteurization, or light, including diffuse daylight or fluorescent light. In the Randleigh Farm Studies conducted between 1935 and 1940, researchers fed animals either pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. Animals fed pasteurized milk had poor development, skin and fur, which resembled pellagra, the disease associated with niacin deficiency, another B vitamin. On the other hand, animals given raw milk had normal growth and healthy coats.
Fortunately, vitamin B6 holds up well in meat. It also holds up fine in cooked fish, probably due to reduced cooking times. So you want to make sure to eat plenty of healthy meats and fish to keep your B6 levels up. Tough to do on strictly vegetarian diets.
In humans, vitamin B6 plays extremely important roles in the immune system, nervous system, and hormonal system.
Doctors recognize low B6 results in a type of anemia with low hemoglobin. Low B12 results in another type of anemia called “pernicious anemia.” And since the red blood cells turn over more rapidly than other cells, we can easily monitor it with simple blood tests.
But make no mistake, many doctors miss the signs of low B6 or don’t understand them. For example, low B6 can also cause confusion, convulsions, dermatitis, depression, and glossitis (a sore, inflamed tongue). So in many cases these outright deficiencies go untreated because doctors never order tests for them.
As I mentioned earlier, my colleague Kilmer McCully discovered low B6 leads to high homocysteine levels in the blood, which appear to the real cause of heart disease. But beware, some studies show you can’t reverse homocysteine-induced heart damage after it has already occurred. So it’s best to take a daily B vitamin supplement with B6 long before the development of actual heart disease. (Subscribers can learn more about the connection between vitamin B6 and heart disease in the March 2015 archived issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter on my website. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)
We also know Type II diabetics often suffer from very low vitamin B6 levels. In fact, a 2010 study linked low B6 with higher levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, and poor blood sugar control. But on the flip side, B6 supplementation seems to help with problems related to glucose intolerance.
Truly, it’s scandalous how little attention most health practitioners give to vitamin B6. Especially when you consider its role in heart disease, Type II diabetes, and other modern-day killers.
The USDA pays attention to fortification of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folic acid, and even iron. (Iron supplementation is actually a waste and a big mistake for most people and should not done blindly on a population basis). But it completely ignores B6.
Processed foods are notoriously low in B6, which I believe caused the huge jump in heart disease rates in the mid-20th century. It had nothing to do with fat or cholesterol.
Plant-based diets don’t to the job either when it comes to B6.
Eat a balanced diet that includes meat and fish. And take a high-quality vitamin B supplement daily that contains 55 mg of B6.
Always on the side of science,
- “Vitamin B6, The Under-Appreciated Vitamin,” Weston Price (www.westonprice.org) 4/1/2011
- “Association of vitamin B6status with inflammation, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammatory conditions: the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study,” Am J Clin Nutr.2010;91(2):337-342